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The moving industry in the United States was deregulated with the Household Goods Transportation Act of 1980. This act allowed interstate movers to issue binding or fixed estimates for the first time. Doing so opened the door to hundreds of new moving companies to enter the industry. This led to an increase in competition and soon movers were no longer competing on services but on price. As competition drove prices lower and decreased what were already slim profit margins, "rogue" movers began hijacking personal property as part of a new scam. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces Federal consumer protection regulations related to the interstate shipment of household goods (i.e., household moves that cross State lines). FMCSA has held this responsibility since 1999, and the Department of Transportation has held this responsibility since 1995 (the Interstate Commerce Commission held this authority prior to its termination in 1995).
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There are many versions to the moving scam, but the basic scam begins with a prospective client contacting a moving company and requesting a cost estimate. In today's market this often happens online via moving directories, brokers, or phone calls. These moving brokers are salesmen prone to quoting sometimes low, but usually reasonable prices with no room for the movers to provide a quality service.
Once the rogue "moving company" has secured a move by providing a non-binding or binding estimate, they arrive to pack and deliver the goods. Often the scam movers use deceptive pricing or weight measurements including prices based on the gross weight of the moving vehicle. After packing and loading, the client is informed that their goods went over the expected weight estimate and the additional weight will be charged at a substantially higher rate (often double the original price per pound). Rogue movers will not inform a client of these discrepancies until the client's goods have been weighed at a certifiable scale, far from the client's original pickup location. The new price may be four or five times higher than the original estimate. The scam movers know that most people will be forced to pay these exorbitant rates based on their need for the personal effects.
Another popular scam is when a moving broker is involved. In many cases, Internet-based moving brokers and household goods carriers quote consumers one rate to move their goods, but then charge an exorbitant markup in order to complete the move—often after the carrier has already taken physical possession of the property. They have their customers pay large deposits that are nothing more than their fees. Frequently, the business names used by the brokers are similar to well-known, reputable brand names in the moving industry.
Mover's lien and hostage loads
The interstate moving industry in America is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), part of the United States Department of Transportation. Only a small staff (fewer than 20 people) is available to patrol hundreds of moving companies, making enforcement difficult. Furthermore, in the United States, there are in most cases no regulations that clearly qualify moving companies as "reliable", and thus such scams are relatively common. Moving companies can provide and often display a Department of Transportation (DOT) license.
Moving companies that operate within the borders of a particular state are usually regulated by the state department of transportation or the public utilities commission or another in that state. This applies to some of the US states like in California (California Public Utilities Commission) and Texas (Texas Department of Motor Vehicles).
On the other hand, there are some US federal laws which govern moving cost estimates. For instance, in the case of out-of-state moves, movers must perform an in-person survey of a client's goods before giving an estimate unless a physical survey waiver agreement is signed; furthermore, this estimate must be in writing. In addition, estimates can be either binding non-binding.
- Department of Transportation
- American Moving & Storage Association
- List of national and international moving associations
- Jimmy Carter. "Jimmy Carter: Household Goolds Transportation Act of 1980 Statement on Signing S. 1798 Into Law.". US Santa Barbara University of California.
- Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV. "Staff Report on Internet Moving Brokers - A New Consumer Protection Problem in the Household Goods Moving Industry". US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
- "Background: The Regulation of Household Goods Movers". U.S. Department of Transportation.
- Cote, Louis. "How to Avoid Unreliable Moving Services". Christos & Christos Moving and Storage. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
- "Hiring a Moving Company". California Public Utilities Commission. Archived from the original on 2012-12-26.
- "Moving in Texas". Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. Archived from the original on 2012-12-04.
- "49 CFR Part 375 - TRANSPORTATION OF HOUSEHOLD GOODS IN INTERSTATE COMMERCE; CONSUMER PROTECTION REGULATIONS". LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
- "49 CFR 375.403 - How must I provide a binding estimate?". www.gpo.gov. GPO. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
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